Friday, September 13, 2013

Adversaries No More: The Carabinieri and MFA Enjoy Cultural Exchange Partnership

News stories from 1998 once chronicled the acquisition of looted archaeological material by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). And the Boston Globe critically reported in 2006 that the MFA "has long contended it did not know of any stolen objects in its collection."

Col. Luigi Cortellessa speaks with an audience member at
the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
That is why Luigi Cortellessa's presence Thursday night at the MFA is so remarkable. He serves as Colonel in Italy's Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC).

Cortellessa praised the cultural exchange partnership now enjoyed between his country and the MFA, and presented photos in the museum's lecture hall of looted objects repatriated to Italy that were previously in the MFA's collection.

To demonstrate the importance of the TPC's mission to protect cultural heritage from theft and plunder, Cortellessa showed slides poignantly illustrating the catastrophic destruction of archaeological sites in Italy, including heavy damage caused by looters using a construction excavator.

Between 1970 and 2012 the Carabinieri recovered 1,058,499 archaeological artifacts from all sources and secured 30,621 criminal indictments, Cortellessa explained to an engaged audience.

Cortellessa's appearance in Boston, along with Consul General Giuseppe Pastorelli and other Italian government officials, signals the changed direction the MFA has traveled in recent years to resist the accession of contraband antiquities. It is a path that contrasts with other major institutions that continue to acquire questionable archaeological artifacts even when conceding that they are "unable to obtain documentary confirmation of portions of the provenance."

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com